Super Mario Level Up!: Climb All of the Levels!
There is not a more recognizable image of video games in America than the Mario Brothers. Today we’ll take a look at a licensed board game featuring this iconic duo: Super Mario Level Up!, a 2017 game from USAopoly.
Super Mario Level Up! is a licensed game based on King Me!, originally designed by Stefano Luperto. In both of these games, your goal is to move your specific set of characters up to the highest level possible without them getting voted “off the board”. When the round ends, players score points based on which of their characters remain on the board and how highly they’re ranked.
Unlike its progenitor, Super Mario Level Up! raises the dimensions to the third level. Setup is a little complicated because it requires literally building a seven step game board for the characters to ascend. Once you’ve built the board you can set up the rest of the game.
Place the characters next to the game board and shuffle the respective cards and tiles, placing them face down. Each player takes a score sheet, a random lineup card, and voting cards: one YES vote card (in their color) and a number of NO vote cards dependent on the number of players. Play begins.
The youngest player starts and play continues clockwise. Each round has two phases: Placement and Movement.
Each player places an equal number of characters on the board. They can place these characters on levels 1-4 (there are seven levels, 0-5 and 10). Any remaining characters are placed on level zero. For example, with four players, each player places three characters and one is left over. There is a maximum of four characters on each level.
Once players place all of the characters, they fill any open spots with question block tokens from the face down pile and the movement phase begins.
Starting again with the first player, each player selects a character to move up one level on the board. Characters cannot move down unless directed by a question mark block.
The four character per level limit is still in effect.
When a character moves onto a level which has a question block, the player flips the block over and does whatever it says. These can be immediate effects like taking an extra turn, victory points at endgame, or many other possibilities. Some question blocks allow players to draw power up cards that offer additional abilities.
If a player moves a character onto level 10, that character is nominated as the new champion.
Election of a Champion
When a character is moved to level 10, the players must vote to allow that character to be champion. Each player selects a voting card and puts it face down on the playing surface. All players reveal their choice simultaneously. If any player votes “No”, the character is removed from the game board until the next round.
Players discard any “No” cards and return “Yes” cards to their hand and movement continues.
When a character is elected champion, the round ends. Everyone reveals their lineup cards and scores points for each character on their lineup that is still on the board, according to its level. Characters knocked off score zero points, and players add any bonus points (like question mark blocks).
The players then completely reset the game and play again for a second and third round. The player with the highest total score after three rounds wins!
Super Mario Level Up! is a social deduction game at its core. This means the better you can read people, the better you will be at the game. There is strategy in moving up characters that aren’t on your lineup, either to try to trick other players into knocking them off the board, or using them to gain question mark blocks for you without revealing your plans.
The only other variable you have control over is the voting process itself. Because of the limited “No” votes each player has, it is helpful to have a good idea of when other people will use their “No” cards, so you don’t spend yours unnecessarily.
Ultimately, the social nuance of this game makes it a little more difficult for kids to pick up. Super Mario Level Up! is rated 8+, and it’s probably about right for us, unlike many other games which skew a little younger for our family.
The question blocks and power up cards didn’t seem to have a huge effect on game play. You can score over 30 points in a single round through election. An additional two points from a question block isn’t going to make a big difference.
The board presents another difficulty. Unlike games like Colt Express or Potion Explosion where the constructed three-dimensional board can be stored, the game surface for Super Mario Level Up! needs to be taken apart every time it is put away. This is a cardboard game surface, so it wears out quickly. In less than ten plays we noticed significant wear on the corners and loosening in the fit of the pieces. Build quality is definitely a concern, especially in a game for kids.
The Super Mario Brothers brand appeals to a demographic that skews younger than the best age for the game, which creates a slight disconnect between the characters and the game mechanics. Of course, gamers of all ages love the Mario Brothers so this isn’t an absolute truth, but if you’re looking for a game like King Me! for younger ages, there isn’t enough here to make the difference. That being said, if you like the idea of a low pressure social deduction game that doesn’t overload the take-that mechanic, moves quickly, and supports up to six players, Super Mario Level Up! is a fun, fast-moving experience.
The Family Gamers received a complimentary copy of Super Mario Level Up! from USAopoly for this review.